Communication Strategies for Success
Every successful relationship—be it professional or personal—is built on communication. Listen, nothing illuminates this concept more than a critical incident when lives are on the line.
When you are communicating effectively, things run smoothly and in order. But if you’re not communicating, chances are much higher that things will quickly get out of sync and out of order.
That’s when you start to notice problems and disruptions in your workflow!
Whether you’re the leader of a project at work, the head of an international organization, or a parent trying to wrangle your kids, communication is key.
Here are a few communication strategies guaranteed to help you succeed at any task or project:
Actively listen. The best way to convince people to listen to what you have to say is to listen to what THEY have to say. When people feel heard, they are more likely to hear your feedback or comments and actually put them into effect.
Actively listening is about more than just letting them say their piece—it’s a way for you to prove that you hear and receive what they’re saying. Sit up, make eye contact, respond to their questions, ask questions of your own, and affirm that you’ve understood what they’re saying.
Active listening is one of the most useful communication skills you can develop, as it shows the other person they matter enough that you care. When someone feels that they matter, they’re more likely to try to find a way to sort out problems.
Use body language. Body language is one of the most effective and underused tools for effective communication!
Body language is subtle and unspoken, yet it communicates so much more than your words ever could. When you sit up, make eye contact, lean forward, make positive facial gestures, and keep an “open” and relaxed posture, you’re telling people that what they have to say matters—meaning they matter. This sort of body language can get anyone on your side, no matter what the problem.
Try to avoid physical barriers between you—desks, tables, chairs, computers, anything that gets in the way. When someone wants to talk, make sure that you have no distractions and no barriers; show them they have your full attention and they’ll be far more likely to believe you care what they’re saying.
Connect with their feelings. People’s words will usually give you a very clear insight into how they feel about a situation. They may not actually come out and say, “I feel hurt/betrayed/mistreated/etc.”, but they’ll say things about being angry, frustrated, or irritated.
Example: John is angry because someone else got the promotion he thought he deserved. John’s anger is really covering something else: hurt. He feels undervalued in the company, and that hurt translates into anger.
There will always be emotions underlying their words, so try to connect with those emotions so you can understand how they’re feeling. Once you understand the emotion that drives their words and actions, it will be much easier to find the best way to solve the problems.
Think first, speak second. A lot of the time, it’s easy to shoot off a quick-fire response, especially when someone is snapping at us or being angry. But that’s going to get you nowhere fast!
When talking with someone—no matter the subject, whether pleasant or difficult—it’s important that you think carefully before you speak. Your words are going to affect the person, for good or for bad. Make sure that you choose what you say carefully.
Not only will this help to avoid and resolve conflicts, but it can show the other person that you’re giving what they’re saying due consideration.
Write it out. Sometimes, it’s too hard to communicate verbally how you feel about a situation. You may be too close to something or emotions are riding hot all around you.
Step back from the situation, sit down, and write things out. Take time to write a letter or email to the person that is giving you a hard time, or to the people who are causing problems in your team. Writing it out will give you clarity of mind and help you understand the way you really feel about the situation.
And, best of all, you can fix up and edit what you write. Words spoken in haste are often regretted, but written words can be changed or corrected. Before you send off that email or letter, have someone else read over it to make sure it communicates what you want it to.
Use inclusive language. When talking with your teammates, try to make it all about “us” and “we” rather than “I” and “me”. This is just a good form of push pull leadership.
You may be the boss, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing this project alone. You’ve got a team of people working with you, all of whom deserve to feel heard, respected, and appreciated. Using this inclusive language is the best way to ensure that.
Smile. Sounds trite, but the truth is that a smile can often be the best way to communicate.
If your team members are nervous because they’re behind schedule or struggling to meet a deadline, a smile may be enough to ease their anxiety. A lot of hostility and tension can be defused with a smile and a few cheerful words.
Remember: smiles are contagious, and they can lift the mood of those around you. Be that positive, upbeat leader your team needs!
Honesty and tact go hand in hand. Your team needs you to be honest with them, and it’s crucial that you speak plainly and actually say what you think and mean.
However, honesty alone is going to get you in more trouble than you’d expect! People don’t often want to hear the brutal, raw honest truth. To truly be effective, you have to wrap up that honesty in a layer of tact.
Tact allows you to speak the truth without being hurtful, insulting, or negative. It helps you to be aware of others’ feelings as you tell them things they may not want to hear. Honesty is critical for a good leader, but tact is equally, if not more, important for effective communication.